DRESDEN — The trial of a Syrian jihadist accused of stabbing a German tourist to death in an apparently homophobic attack last year began in the eastern city of Dresden on Monday.
The 21-year-old, named by German media as Abdullah A., is charged with murder, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm for allegedly attacking two men who had travelled to Dresden from North Rhine-Westphalia with a 21-centimeter blade on October 4.
One of them, a 55-year-old man, later died from his injuries in a hospital. The other, aged 53, survived with serious injuries.
Ahead of the trial, which is set to run until the end of May, prosecutors said the then-20-year-old was motivated by homophobia and “radical Islamist views.”
“He chose his victims in order to punish them with death as representatives of a free society he rejected as infidel,” the charge sheet stated.
The defendant’s lawyer told the court that his client would not be making a statement.
Abdullah A. was arrested on October 20, just over two weeks after he attacked the two men outside Dresden’s Palace of Culture.
Having arrived in Germany as a minor during the refugee crisis of 2015, the Syrian had been living in the country under “tolerated” status granted to people whose asylum requests have been rejected, but who cannot be deported.
He has a long criminal record and was in 2018 handed a juvenile sentence of two years and nine months for soliciting support for a foreign terrorist organization.
He remained under surveillance following his release shortly before the Dresden attack.
The stabbing turned Germany’s attention once again to the threat of Islamist terrorism after a recent rise in attacks by right-wing extremists.
It came just days before French history teacher Samuel Paty was brutally murdered in Paris for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a lesson on free speech.
“This act once again demonstrates the danger of Islamist violence,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement after the Dresden attack.
“Whatever the form of extremism and terrorism, the utmost vigilance is called for,” he said.
Seehofer has previously declared right-wing extremism the “biggest security threat” facing Germany after a spate of far-right attacks in recent years.
Yet people with ties to Islamist extremism have also committed several violent attacks in Germany, the deadliest being a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12 people.